In the first half of this series, we went over the reasons why women and minorities are underrepresented in STEM jobs, and how it’s not a result of the college pipeline alone. The real reasons for the lack of diverse STEM employees are more complicated and nuanced, but luckily there are plenty of steps recruiters can take to help bridge the gap.

At each step of their careers, diverse STEM candidates face an uphill struggle, while their white male counterparts get to play on level ground. Here is a detailed list of how you can level the playing field and help support a diversity of culture and ideas within your company.

Recruiting:
  • The first step is the same in any problem-solving strategy: accept that you have a problem and that you may be contributing to it. Lacking diversity on your STEM teams doesn’t mean your company is blatantly racist or sexist, but it does mean that subconscious bias has sneaked in, and it’s time to address it head on.
  • Make sure your message clearly states why diversity is important to your company. Any career page can use a bold font to state that ‘they care.’ So to show candidates you mean it, be as specific as possible. When talking about why diversity is important to your company, show how it has had a real impact on your company’s work or bottom line. Candidates need to understand that you’re not hiring them to fill a quota, but instead that you genuinely value their perspective.
  • Use inclusive cues and images in your recruitment materials. Make sure your careers section links to information about your commitment to diversity, and that the images on your website reflect diverse groups.
  • Be transparent. If you say you value diversity but your team represents just one or two cultures, candidates will notice the disparity. Be honest about your diversity situation, even if it’s in bad shape, and lay out your plans for bettering your practices by supporting the needs of different cultures.
  • Make use of networking groups that are specific to women and minority groups in STEM. Like these. Or these.
  • Focus less on career fairs and more on workshops that teach candidates how to get hired. African American and Latino candidates in particular are more likely to put their time and effort into résumé and interview training instead of passing a resume around a career fair.
  • Recruits aren’t interested in being a token hire, so don’t pitch to them like that’s what they are to you.
The Hiring Process:
  • Take an Implicit Association Test. This will allow you to become aware of your own implicit biases so you can take steps to mitigate them.
  • Be mindful of what language is being used to write job descriptions. A study now shows that the use of certain words in job descriptions may dissuade women from applying. There’s even an app for helping you avoid this pitfall. Also, bullet lists of required or desired skills tend to result in more male applicants. That’s because women typically avoid applying for jobs for which they don’t meet most of the qualifications, while men will often apply even if they only meet just a few.
  • Have names, gender and race factors (like colleges or fraternities) removed from résumés before sending them to managers to determine which will be selected for an interview.
  • Many companies use a candidate’s public code repository (or GitHub) as a sort of coding portfolio. But consider that candidates may have busy family lives, which tends to be even busier for women than men, and that GitHub is usually a place for personal, off-the-clock projects that people with families may not have time to spend building.
  • Consider cutting out whiteboard tests from interviews. They don’t exemplify the actual potential of a candidate anyway. Besides, these types of interviews have been dubbed obsolete. Candidates have been warned that companies who conduct interviews this way are behind the times.
  • Standardize your interview process. Use the same exact criteria for assessing your candidates during every interview. This helps prevent the bar from moving depending on the candidate’s age, race, disabilities and gender identity.
  • Split and score the interview results. Have some portions of an interview take place outside of personal bias, like a written or question-and-answer portion. Score this portion of the interview without knowing whose it is. Allow the final scores to influence who gets hired.

Iris Bohnet, a behavioral economist at Harvard Kennedy School, described her interview process in a Freakonmics podcast on economic gender barriers:

“I have an assistant assign numbers to the answers to the questions and then I compare the questions across, not vertically, but horizontally. So I look at the answer to question one for all of my ten candidates, then I look at question two for all of my ten candidates, and then I rate them. And then at the end I aggregate them, and then I’ll give them back to my assistant and she tells me who—was it John or Suzy or Jamal or May, who I rated.”

Maintaining Diverse Teams
  • While focusing on diversity recruiting, try to hire at least two candidates from the same group in close succession. Having someone who they can relate to on their team is good for morale and allows for a potential support system.
  • Measuring the number of diverse hires is an obvious and important step, but also keep track of the diversity of applications you receive. If you’re not seeing a rise in diverse applicants over time, then change your strategy.
  • Set optimistic goals for your diversity ratios. Aiming for ratios that mirror our national population (50% women, 13% African American, 16% Hispanic, etc.) is just the beginning. While it’s true that these ratios don’t reflect the number of women and minorities that carry STEM degrees, using these numbers as a benchmark will give you an insight into whether or not your recruitment efforts are attracting diverse candidates in a way that is competitive.
  • Consider getting rid of self-evaluations. Evidence suggests that managers are influenced by what they read in self-evaluations, but people in some cultures are conditioned to brag or talk about their own achievements in varying amounts. Hence, cultures where bragging is a positive trait will benefit more from these evaluations. There’s also evidence that men are likely to extol their own performance more than women, so the gap for recognition and compensation widens.
  • Once you’ve got a diverse team, you need to make a genuine effort to keep diverse employees from leaving. There’s an unfortunate trend of women and minorities leaving STEM careers at higher rates than their white male counterparts. Making sure someone is being supported, treated well, and compensated fairly is the bare minimum for any employee, yet companies struggle to even do this for their diverse employees. To truly maintain a healthy team of diverse cultures and ideas, companies have to go above and beyond. Understand the reasons that women and minorities are more likely to leave STEM careers and work to remove those factors within your own company.

Do you have additional strategies for recruiting and retaining a diverse STEM workforce? Share them with us in the comment section. Need help with your own diversity strategy? Reach out to us at www.conversations@jwt.com.

Olivia Landau lends expert knowledge and technical fluency on digital best practices, quality assurance, social media, knowledge sharing, email marketing, and popular internet culture.